Speaking with K. Srilata is like reconnecting with an old teacher. She is warm, friendly, and curious about what you have to say. There is a strong, fabulous teacher-mother dynamic to her personality that colours her works and her responses. Her voice is reassuringly warm but the pace at which the words tumble out of her mouth is fast, of a woman who is used to cramming a lot of work in a day. Which is not a surprise, of course. K. Srilata is a writer, poet and translator, as well as a professor at IIT Madras, while also being a dedicated family person who admits to being open to dropping it all if the kids need her. “But they will not like me around all the time! I will drive them crazy!” she chuckles.
K. Srilata writes in English and translates Tamil works, including those of her mother. At the Bengaluru Poetry Festival, she read a few of her pieces in her signature, sometimes hurried but always unpretentious style.
‘Arriving Shortly’ touched my heart. It talks about the poet’s mother in a foreign place, her sari suddenly exotic, her sweater suddenly a meagre shield against unfamiliar weather. Like all of her poems, this one reverberates with human feelings – simple, familial, deep, very emotional. There is a distinct sense of being part of the experience while also looking at it analytically, like a detached event.
K. Srilata’s poetry is not always seeking the big things as much as searching for big meanings in everyday things. Which makes the demand for perfection in pickle-making special; a bit frustrating but still special! The words exist in a space where there is not angry about a situation or a requirement as much as a quiet rebellion against what is unfair. There is always an attempt to understand where everyone comes from. In that sense, this is compassionate poetry. It affects you, and reminds you of your own life’s instances. It is familiar poetry, even though you have never heard it before.
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Written by Shruti Sharada.